Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala police have intensified anti-Maoist operations in forest areas along the tri-junction corridor between Kannur and Palakkad.
Search operations under the special drive christened 'Operation Anaconda' have been carried out by the security forces led by Thunderbolts -- the elite paramilitary commando unit of the Kerala Police – anti-Naxal squad, and Armed Reserve Battalion in coordination with the local police.
The combing operations were stepped up following reports of armed persons attached to the banned Communist Party of India (Maoists) being sighted in many parts of the region recently. A large posse of police personnel and commandos have been camping in the forest for the past two days.
State police chief Lokanath Behera has told Manorama that attempts have been made to rope in police forces of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka for combined search operations. However, he refused to divulge the strength of the search team or details of the locations were combing operations are being conducted.
The search team also comprises superintendents of police from Palakkad, Kannur and Wayanad districts.
Public display of might
The police swung into action after a nine-member armed group, including women, reportedly took out an armed march in full public glare at Ambayathode, near Kottiyur, under the Kelakam police station on December 29. Before taking out the march, the gang had visited a tribal colony in the area and distributed pamphlets to the residents.
In the recent past, there were several incidents confirming the presence of the Maoists in villages on the fringes of forest areas in Wayanad, Kannur, Thrissur and Palakkad district. However, they had never dared to stage any kind of demonstration openly. The cadres, clad in black military style uniform, bought groceries from a shop in the locality before retreating into the forests under the Kottiyoor wildlife sanctuary on the borders of Kannur and Wayanad districts.
Immediately after the incident, a police team, led by ADGP (intelligence) TK Vinod Kumar, conducted a quick search in the area, but it failed to yield any results.
No Keralites in the gang
There was specific intelligence information that CPI-Maoists had increasingly been using the forest tri-junction of the southern states as a safe haven following the intense anti-Maoist operations in their strongholds in north India. There are over 80 Maoist cadres camping in the forests across the region and the police have identified most of them. The cops have also compiled vital details about them including their latest photographs.
Highly-placed sources confirmed that there were no Keralites in the gang that was spotted at Ambayathode. Out of the nine cadres, two are natives of Andhra Pradesh. It was learned that the police have taken into custody a number of local persons for questioning. The DGP has given strict instructions to the probing team that no arrest should be made without establishing their link with the insurgent group.
Meanwhile, a Special Branch report said that the nine-member gang seemingly ventured out of the forest in order to purchase vegetables and other food articles. Presumably, they carried guns, identified as .303 rifles, for self-protection, the reported stated.
Government’s offer turned down
Though the state government had announced a rehabilitation package for Maoists wishing to return to the mainstream, not a single person has come forward to give up the militant ways. The government also promised them a lumpsum monetary incentive of Rs 5 lakh apart from finding employment for them and funding their children’s education.
However, in an article published in its mouthpiece recently, the outfit turned down the offer saying that they were not ready to surrender in exchange for cash. It was followed by frequent sighting of suspicious-looking persons by local people residing on the fringes of forest areas in Wayanad, Kannur, Malappuram and Kozhikode districts.
Last month, six Maoists activists reportedly visited Thalapuzha near Mananthavady in Wayanad and distributed pamphlets alleging that the death of Anil Kumar, an employee of Thavinjal Service Cooperative Bank who committed suicide, was a planned murder by the CPM and bank authorities.
A couple of weeks before that incident, a group of Maoists had conducted a meeting at Alakkal colony in Vazhikadavu close to Nilambur forests and warned the residents of their exploitation by the government.
Some months back, Maoist militants had stolen 10 camera traps installed inside the Silent Valley National Park as part of the tiger census.